Biedermeier at Graf Maldeghem's Schloss Niederstotzingen
The collection of furniture at Schloss Niederstotzingen near Ulm in Baden Württemberg is of considerable interest as it reflects the different episodes in the history of the Stein and Maldeghem families in particular and several characteristic aspects of the history of the German country house in general
The furniture collection can be divided into three categories: the first consists mainly of traditional German early and mid-17th Century Baroque furniture, such as large Schränke and Truhen, together with Baroque-style furniture dating from the 19th Century. This group was probably partly inherited from the Counts of Stein, who preceded the Counts of Maldeghem at Schloss Niederstotzingen. Several pieces were made locally at the end of the 19th Century at the request of the great-grandfather and grandfather of the present owner in order to complete the furnishings of the Schloss. The second category comprises German 18th Century marquetry furniture, such as the magnificent Mainz Kleiderschrank (lot 405) and the elegant pair of Vitrinenschränke (lot 367). These items of furniture were possibly commissioned by Count Carl Leopard of Stein (1729-1809). As they obviously predate the house, it is likely that they were originally part of the furnishings of the Steins' other Schlösser in the region and were subsequently brought to Niederstotzingen in the 19th or early 20th Century. Contrary to the earlier Baroque and Baroque-style furniture, which mainly adorned the corridors of the Schloss, the elegant 18th Century marquetry pieces were used in the main reception rooms on the piano nobile of Niederstotzingen's South Wing. The third category is the wonderful collection of Biedermeier furniture, which was probably acquired by Count Carl Leopold of Maldeghem, after his move to Schloss Niederstotzingen in 1821, or on the occasion of his marriage to Countess Maria Theresia of Walburg-Zeil-Wurzbach in 1823.
As many stylistic evolutions in centuries before, which were strongly influenced by political, religious and social changes, the origins of the Biedermeier style lie in the tumultuous period towards the end of the Napoleonic wars. The emergence of this style in Germany reflects the profound desire for a national style and an urge to break with the foregoing Napoleonic era and its Empire style, which had been adopted by most German and other Continental European courts.
At first, Biedermeier furniture seems to demonstrate a clear break with the grandeur of the Empire style and indeed, the simplified elegance, desire for comfort and preference for light indigenous woods reflects a new liberal era. However, the developement of Biedermeier furniture in particular is considerally indebted to the Empire stye and to a larger extent to the German version of the Louis XVI style or Zopfstil. In fact, most of the celebrated Biedermeier furniture-makers had mastered the Empire style during the offset of their career. Rectilinear forms and smooth unadorned surfaces were already favoured during the Empire period and were adopted by the Biedermeier style but without the heavy three-dimensional mouldings; columns, caryatids and herms were also still widely used as decorative Leitmotive, although no longer in a weight-bearing capacity. In addition, the use of costly ormolu mounts was abandoned. Small lacquered brass handles and escutcheons were preferred, often depicting drapery, vases and bouquets, which reflect the fashion at the end of the 18th Century. The vogue for light woods and elegant simplified shapes so charateristic of the Biedermeier style had already appeared during the Louis XVI style and subsequntly returned to the vocabulary of cabinet-makers during the Biedermeier period. An important influx also came from England, probably by means of printed furniture-designs which became the third key source of the Biedermeier style, and stimulated the publication of similar designs in Germany.
Interestingly, the desire for Neue Ästethik and Einfachkeit had already surfaced in certain German Royal and Princely circles at the end of the 18th Century. A early as 1798, J.W. Goethe describes in Hermann und Dorothea : Alles is einfach und glatt, nicht Schitzwerk oder Vergoldung.'. A number of South German Courts, in particular those in Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Munich played an important role in the early development of the new German style. A striking example of this phase is the green salon of the Wittelsbach Princesses Marie and Sophie in one of the Hofgartenzimmer in the Residenz in Munich, which was furnished by the Hofschreiner Nikolaus Daniel (d. 1813) in 1810. Daniel provided the Princesses with a light cherrywood ensemble comprising tables and armoires. The latter were fitted with green pleated curtains matching the seat-covers and harmonising with the delicately-stencilled wallpapers and the intricate design of the carpet. This exquisite salon, which was painted by Wilhelm Rehler in 1820, was probably among the earliest Biedermeier interiors avant la lettre in Germany.
The collection of Biedermeier furniture at Schloss Niederstotzingen, which was acquired in the early 1820s, was probably partly made in Munich. A number of characteristic decorative elements, such as the stained poplar and black penwork decoration are generally associated with furniture-making in the Bavarian capital. This decoration appears on the large Jagdschrank (lot 244), on an étagère and a large centre table from the Rittersaal (lot 261). It is not surprising that the newly-wed Count and Countess of Maldeghem turned to Munich when acquiring these fashionable items of furniture. This neighbouring city had developed into an important centre for the new style around 1800, stimulated by the ambitious building-activities which were initiated by the new Elector Max Joseph of Bavaria and the Palatine (1756-1825) and his second consort Princess Caroline of Baden (1776-1841).